A federal jury today convicted Robert Doggart, 65, of Signal Mountain, Tennessee, of soliciting another person to violate federal civil rights laws by burning down a mosque in Islamberg, a hamlet outside Hancock, New York, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr of the Eastern District of Tennessee. Doggart also was found guilty of soliciting another person to commit arson and two counts of threatening to destroy a building by fire or an explosive.
Evidence presented at trial established that between February and April of 2015, the defendant planned an armed attack on Islamberg, which is a community that is home to a large Muslim population. Doggart’s plans included burning down a mosque, a school and a cafeteria in the community. He also solicited others to join in his planned attack through Facebook posts, telephone conversations and in-person meetings. Doggart specifically targeted the mosque because it was a religious building, and he discussed burning it down or blowing it up with a Molotov cocktail or other explosive device.
“The Defendant sought out others to join him in a violent attack on a community of men, women, and children because of their religion,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “We thank the jury for their service, and we will continue to vigorously enforce our nation’s laws that protect the ability of people of all faiths to live and worship in peace.”
“Our nation cannot tolerate threats by those who are willing to kill innocent children, women and men who do not share their religious beliefs or philosophy,” said U.S. Attorney Harr. “I am heartened that citizens from Chattanooga, a community that was victimized by domestic terrorism just 18 months ago, chose to condemn the threat of more terroristic acts. The jury carefully and attentively listened to the proof, deliberated cautiously for two days, and reached a verdict that reaffirms our American principles.”
“This conviction is the result of the hard work by the men and women of the FBI and our law enforcement partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Renae McDermott of the Knoxville Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “The coordinated efforts of FBI Knoxville and Columbia, the USAO Eastern District of Tennessee, and DOJ were successful in proactively preventing this individual from carrying out his plans. It is a simple example of the rule of law and right of all citizens to pursue happiness in a safe environment is of paramount importance to law enforcement in the United States.”
At trial, the jury heard recorded phone conversations between Doggart and others, including one call in which Doggart said, “I don’t want to have to kill children, but there’s always collateral damage.” In another call, Doggart described his weapons as intended for killing people and not for hunting game.
The defendant faces a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison for each of the four counts of conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for May 31, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier of the Eastern District of Tennessee.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Knoxville Division, and was prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Saeed A. Mody and Assistant U.S. Attorney Perry H. Piper of the Eastern District of Tennessee.